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Management in Practice

What Does It Take to Build a Zero-Emission Hotel?

When real-estate developer Bruce Becker ’85 set out to convert New Haven’s historic, Marcel Breuer-designed Pirelli Building into the boutique Hotel Marcel, he realized that exclusively using renewable sources of energy would make the project more financially sustainable.


Most hotels have gas-fired hot water boilers. They have ranges in their kitchen. They have heating systems that use natural gas. They have generators that use diesel or natural gas. They have shuttles that use gas or diesel.

We just made a decision: there’s cost-effective high-performance options that eliminate all of those things, so we just said, let’s not do any of that. Just by virtue of not having those things, we’re a zero-emission hotel. There’s nothing gets burned within the four walls of this building, so we’re zero emission. Then we make most of the power from the solar panels. We are currently buying some energy from the grid, but we buy that from renewable sources. We do have a plan to add more solar panels so that we’ll be entirely self-sufficient.

It actually costs less to take this approach. Because of the new incentives with the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act], we have a 30% tax credit on all of the solar panels and batteries. We have also a grant from the local utility, United Illuminating, and we also have CPACE financing—Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing. As a result of doing all these things and tapping into the incentives, we were able to invest $3 million less than we would’ve had to raise for a conventional project. I’ll go back to my days at the School of Management, being able to analyze that early on and realize this is actually the cheaper way to go.

A typical hotel in New England spends $15.50 per occupied room night on energy. We spend only about $5. So there’s an additional $10 a night that we could then use for other things—to compensate our staff better, to create a nicer environment here, to pay off our financing sooner. Asset value is a lot more because we don’t have that larger energy bill to pay every year. We capitalize that and it makes the building worth millions of dollars more than it otherwise would be. As times change, there needs to be new solutions.

I actually find it very creative. As much effort has gone into the design of the financing and the energy systems as the physical design of the restoration of this interesting architectural landmark.